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This Is The Way Afghanistan Officially Ends — With An Absolute Whimper

Stashed in: Middle East, International Incidents

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I’m a big fan of the New York Times, my hometown paper. Its motto, “all the news that’s fit to print,” I find wonderfully principled and ambitious. Certainly the formal end of the war in Afghanistan is fit to print, but it was not given any sort of prominence on the site. Paul Rieckhoff, the founder and chief executive of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, captured it through an Instagram post shortly after the story was published. According to Rieckhoff, the story on Afghanistan was 13 stories down the New York Times’ mobile site, two below a review of actor Terrence Howard’s new show “Empire.”

That’s how the war in Afghanistan formally ends after 13 years, with a whimper in the American media. But it ends with a strategic whimper as well. The war in Afghanistan went so well that the ceremony ending it had to be conducted in secret, for fear of Taliban attacks. After 13 years of trying to destroy it, the Taliban is alive and well, strong and active and conducting regular attacks on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border.

In the headline of this piece, I made reference to an oft-quoted line from British writer T.S. Eliot. “This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper,” Eliot writes in the final stanza of The Hollow Men. The poem is widely seen as a characterization of Western society after the Great War, a condemnation of the Treaty of Versailles, which did little to alleviate tensions and create peace among Western powers. I can’t help but think Afghanistan is ending similarly, with tensions as high as ever, and a proclaimed end of the war actually ending very little.

I wasn't in favor of going in. I wasn't in favor of staying in.

I can't believe it took 13 years to leave. 

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